The War On Jobs 2: Prepared for the worst?

Posted: July 20, 2010 in Current affairs, The economy

As quoted in my recent post (And Now the Markets…Part 2, 12 July), Henry Liu argues that:

“While the culprits of the global credit meltdown of 2008 have been bailed out with the public’s future tax money, the sovereign debt crisis across the globe is blamed on innocent wage earners for receiving supposedly unsustainably high wages and excessive social benefits that allegedly threaten the competitiveness of economies in a globalized trade regime designed to push wages down everywhere.”

In the UK, there is a large section of the population in the UK who have yet to feel the pain. This is because there are many more job losses and pay freezes to come, especially in the public sector and when they do come, they will not be evenly distributed socially and/or geographically.  A recent edition of Money Watch (BBC2, 14 July) presented a colour-coded map of the UK, showing which regions would best cope with the tough times yet to come. Unsurprisingly, the area best able to cope will be the south-east of England, allowing for a few black spots in greater London, which is relatively less reliant on public sector jobs, while major urban areas of northern England and Scotland will be vulnerable to the harshest effects.

This is why I posted the quote below from Neil Kinnock’s famous speech from 1983 (15 July). If you are in a public sector job, with a family to keep, a mortgage and personal loan(s) to repay, with maybe even a couple of maxed-out credit cards, and your employer announces a pay freeze or lays you off, or if you are currently unemployed and social benefits are your life line, then things are going to get ugly or uglier still.

I’m not saying this to scaremonger; it’s just very difficult right now to look forward to the next few years with any confidence. I’m saying it because I wonder how prepared the left in Britain really is for the crisis? And when I say “the left”, I’m not talking about the Labour Party, which is too tainted by the neoliberal order that created this mess in the first place. I’m not entirely sure yet what the answer is but I’ve been reading up on the IMF-sponsored destruction of Argentina’s economy in 2002 and can’t help feel there are lessons we can learn from how the Argentinian people responded to that assault on their livelihoods and dignity. I’ll talk about that in my next post.

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